KW Homestead

Emma & Jason's pasture raised poultry, homesteading thoughts, and wild adventures.

Month: July 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Clipping Turkey Wings

Before you get worried, please know that when you clip a bird’s wings it doesn’t hurt them. You do not cut the skin, simply the feathers. It’s like cutting your hair.

We’ve shown you a video about clipping a goose’s wings, so check that out to see how it’s done. A goose’s wing feathers are super thick and you need tin snips to get through the thickness. Turkey feathers are not as thick (right now when they’re young, anyway) and I was able to clip all 66 turkey wings by myself. My strategy was simple and only took about an hour:

  • Open up their house in the morning and put some food right by the entrance.
  • Sit on a stool right by the entrance and wait.
  • Snatch up a turkey when it trustingly walks over to snack.
  • Pin its legs between your legs (watch those sharp nails!).
  • Hug one side of its body up against your stomach (this keeps that wing from slipping loose and flapping around).
  • Lay your non-dominant forearm over their upper back, below their next and gently stretch our their free wing with this hand.
  • Use your other hand to cut the flight feathers off.
  • Let them go and watch them lopsidedly try to fly away.
feathers

The aftermath of wing clipping. And yes, I saved those feathers!

We usually only clip one wing of our birds, since it keeps them from flying just as well as clipping both. This way, they feel lopsided when they fly and eventually give up on trying to fly with any accuracy.

The reason we decided to clip their wings is because they kept flying over the electric fence into the garden and not knowing how to get out to join the rest of the flock. They also kept perching on the edge of the carport, which was making me feel homicidal!

And of course, after each was clipped, they were still trusting enough to follow me around all day and try to stand by me!

turkeys

Where are the turkeys? Standing by me, of course!

.:.

Meet the Gosling Quartet…

goslings

Our 4 goslings.

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you know that we recently received our Embden goslings in the mail. You also know that even though we ordered 10, we were only shipped 4. Sad news for us!

We ordered a “straight run” from Murray McMurray Hatchery which means that they were not sexed to determine how many males and females were in the bunch. Ordering them this way is cheaper, and since we only wanted to keep 2 males and 2 females to add to our breeding flock (and eat the rest), we figured that ordering 10 would ensure that we got what we wanted. Unfortunately, now that we only have 4 (apparently the hatchery has experienced lower hatch rates than expected and they will not send us the other 6), we are going to have to just wait around and hope that we have at least 2 males in the bunch. The 4 geese that we have now (only one of which is an Embden) are all females, a fact that we weren’t certain of until recently!

This is our second time this year that our shipments of birds were delayed or altered (beginning with our turkeys). Although the whole thing is disappointing, we’re just going to have to make due with what we’ve got!

So now we have another goose quartet, this time one that is filled with lots of fuzzy cuteness. Goslings are by far our favorite babies (I honestly enjoy them more than the piglets, to be honest)! They have such personality even at a few days old, and the fact that they imprint on the animal nearest them when they are born, makes me excited to hatch our own future geese and have them be best friends and adventure partners to our children! Geese are super loud and can flog any animal with such intensity that I am inclined to think them just as protective as dogs.

Our goslings are already “fussing” at us when we come over to visit them, just as adult geese do–bending down and stretching their necks out at you while honking.

goslings

The “fussing” posture!

We’ve let them out in the yard (supervised, of course) to roam around and they enjoy eating grass and seed pods. What self-sufficient little marvels!

They will probably outgrow their current home in a few weeks, and then they will probably get to go live with the other geese and ducks. We’ll see!

.:.

Dehydrating Mushrooms and Apples

We just dehydrated our first batch of mushrooms and apples.

The shiitake mushroom logs won’t fruit in the colder weather, so now is the time to save them for winter soups and stir frys.

The apples were beginning to spoil rather quickly, so we thought that dehydrating them for fruit-leather-like snacks would be fun.

apples

Some of the apple are going bad…

The apples and the mushrooms were sliced about 1/4 inch thick or smaller and laid out on the dehydrator trays. The apples were soaked in a Vitamin C water solution to lock in the nutrients that are often lost during dehydrating and to keep them from turning brown too quickly. They were dehydrated for about 14 hours at 135 degrees.

apples

Soaking apple slices.

The combined smell of the dehydrating apples and mushrooms was a bit funky, but the finished product looks great. I can’t wait to try the mushrooms this winter!

mushrooms

Ready to go in the dehydrator!

.:.

Pickles, Pickles, Everywhere!

With the cucumbers doing so well this year, we’ve had to make a lot of pickles to preserve them! The paste tomatoes have also started coming in, as have the tomatillos. This means that fermented salsa is the way to go for us!

So far we’ve pickled a couple gallons of cucumbers and a few quarts of salsa.

pickling

White Wonder cucumber pickles on the left and tomato salsa on the right.

Our salsa has manifested into two distinct kinds:

  • Tomatillo salsa
  • Tomato salsa

Each of these salsas has a variety of garlic, basil, and jalapeño, and each of them has a touch of the other’s main ingredient (either tomatillo or tomato, depending).

One we’ve pureed the ingredients, we add 1 tablespoon of salt and 4 tablespoons of whey. This recipe is a variation on Sally Fallon’s recipe from her fantastic book, Nourishing Traditions.

This recipe has worked really well for us! We let them sit out in a room temperature space for a few days, “burping” them a few times a day. Daily taste tests reveal when they are ready, and afterwards they get refrigerated until we decide to eat them!

This is the original recipe that we use for pickles (this makes 1 quart):

  • Dill
  • Minced garlic
  • 1 cup of purified water
  • 4 tablespoons of whey
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

Happy pickling!

.:.

 

 

Turkey Freedom!

The turkeys have had free range over the property for the last few weeks, since they are now big enough that we’re not worried about hawks attacking them!

Where ever you go, they follow you. Kind of like an annoying little sibling!!!

They follow you here...

They follow you here…

IMG_0884

… And they follow you there…

They follow you everywhere!

They follow you everywhere!

 

Don’t forget that we still have some of our free range, GMO free, heritage turkeys for sale for your Thanksgiving celebration! Check out this page for more information!

.:.

 

Farm Food Friday: Venison Meatballs

We’ve gotten a little tired of the same old venison dishes, so we decided to make some venison meatballs!

We pulled out the old meat grinder, and after cutting the venison into smaller chunks, we started grinding away.

We added some duck fat that we saved from our last roast duck, since venison is not very fatty and we didn’t want to meatballs to be too dry!

This is what our ground venison looked like after we were done:

IMG_0844

Then we added some of our sage:

sage

And our garlic:

garlic

And a couple of our eggs and some bread crumbs for texture.

Then we cooked them up in a little olive oil:

meatballs

We cooked up a rue (after the removing the meatballs from the pan) using the oils and fats from the pan, coconut milk, flour, and olive oil. We added some more garlic, salt, and pepper and once the rue was almost finished we added the meatballs back in to let the flavors meld.

We served it over rice and then promptly inhaled it:

meatballs and rice

 

Yummy!

.:.

On Catching Pigs (Almost)

We didn’t get him.

We came close, oh so close, but we didn’t get him. The pig that is.

His number has come up, and our plan was to isolate him for a few days before the deed was done, but after an exciting evening complete with blood, sweat , and tears, we didn’t get him.

silvopastured pigs

“Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Bacon should not be highly rated.” ~Thomas Paine

 

Free Ranging Chickens (Going Everywhere From the Pig Pen to the Woods!)

We recently have set our chickens free!

And I mean REALLY free!

They are free to go anywhere on our land that they want to, except the garden (which is why we’ve electric fenced the garden out) and the carport (just because it gets on my nerves)!

fence

Electric fencing around the garden.

The reason we made this choice is because we were tired of having to move their house and pen every week or so, and our flock is growing and we don’t want to expand the size of their space.

So, we decided to set them free and move their house way across our front yard to the edge of the woods.

ducks

You can see the chicken house in the distance behind the duck fence!

They still get locked up in their house at night, since ground predators are a threat, but so far the aerial predators have not taken any standard sized chickens. A bantam has gone missing, but we expected that we might loose more chickens when we gave them free range of the whole property. We think it’s a risk that chickens would like to take, considering how much happier they are! We’ve kept 3 of our hybrid roosters, in addition to Rex, so that they can help protect the flock in the case of an attack. We’ve started calling these roosters the Musketeers, since they often stick together.

We are really happy with our choice to allow them to be completely free range, except for one thing… The eggs! Only a few of them are still laying their eggs in their house, and we have had a really hard time finding their other rouge nests. Even when we find one and replace some of the eggs with golf balls (so they don’t know that we found it) they still abandon that location and look for new places to lay eggs.

tree

An old nest spot was in the monkey grass under this oak tree.

At this point, we’re only finding about 5 eggs a day, and even though this isn’t enough to sell any, we still feel like it’s all worth it. Because they are free ranging we feed them so much less food, so they are almost free to keep around!

The funniest thing about having them free ranging everywhere, is seeing the places they choose to go. One hen always sleeps in a tree in the backyard, and many of the younger hens like to hang out with the pigs all day! The Musketeers high-tail it over to the backyard in the morning to get some of the leftover turkey food that the cleanup ducks missed! I just have to watch out for Rex when I’m outside, since he’s started attacking me again lately!

chickens

Two of the Musketeers are hanging out in the backyard with the turkeys!

Three cheers for free chickens!

.:.

2015 Apple Harvest

Harvest season is upon us! In addition to the wild blackberries we put up, we harvested apples the other day from our somewhat deformed backyard Apple tree. This tree was planted by the previous owners of our homestead and forgotten to the point that it was almost completely engulfed by a massive honeysuckle vine.

Our first year here, it produced only a few small and tart apples that were eventually all eaten by deer, but after removing the honeysuckle and some heavy pruning, we were rewarded with a 32 pound harvest last summer.

This winter, I pruned it even more, and actually grafted some Roxbury russet scion onto a few potential leaders. Serious pruning of any fruit tree should be carried out over several seasons, so as not to shock the tree too badly.

apple harvest yield culls

our 2015 apple harvest, sorted and ready for processing

This year, we harvested a little over 40 pounds of apples. Now that’s not the 4-7 bushels that I talk about in my post on the value of a fruit tree investment, but it is a lot of apples for, other than a little pruning in winter, and 20 minutes of picking in Summer, essentially no input. No fertilizer, insecticide, fungicide, herbicide, or irrigation.

Now of these 40 pounds of apples, I’d say that only 15% are “grocery store” apples. That is nice and plump, with no blemishes, bruises, funny shapes or insect bites. We’ll eat these fresh and savor every bite.

the grocery store apples: blemish free and plump.

The rest of the apples will be processed and preserved. We are plan on drying/dehydrating them.  Of these apples, the non grocery store apples, most of them contain either a few minor defects, or 1 large defect. They also tend to be a bit smaller, and more oddly shaped. This doesn’t effect the flavor though and they should dehydrate fine. 70% of our apples fall into this category.

processing apples with minor defects, nothing major to see here

The next batch of apples have more serious defects, often a major soft spot that will effect its shelf life, or many medium sized defects. These apples are often small, and we are going to have to cut around the bad parts when we dehydrate them. They are still usable, but the yield of fruit on them is low. I’d say about 10% of the apples fit this category.

these guys are still usable, but the yield is low and they don’t store well

The last category are the culls. They’re pig food. These apples are either too small to mess with, or almost completely covered in defects and soft spots. Drops and rotten apples fall into this category and they will be fed to the pigs who will enjoy them thoroughly. The remaining 5% fall into this category.

culls. not worth messing with, a.k.a. pig food.

All in all not too bad, and we will definitely update you when we start dehydrating apples!

A Blackberry Adventure!

It seems now, as I write this, that blackberry season is over on the homestead. We were hoping to harvest 50 quarts but we fell short this year, landing somewhere around 15. Not nearly as much as we wanted, but it definitely is a great start since last year we harvested 0 quarts!

The picking process is simple, really. You just have to be a little thicker skinned than usual and get used to getting scratched and hurt (not such a new concept around here, really!).

We both got suited up with long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat (the brim really helps by keeping briers from smacking you in the face), and a glove.

jason

Jason after a round of picking.

We tied the baskets to our front, as though we were carrying basket-baby-bellies which allowed us to keep both hands free. We could fit about 4 or 5 pounds in the basket before it got too full and heavy, which meant that we could pick for at least an hour without having to go back to the house to drop off our fruits.

Emma

Emma wearing a basket.

Jason had a different tactic than I did. I chose to wear a glove on my left hand so that I could grab briers and pull them closer to me to pick the berries with my right hand. I would pick up to 10 berries, letting them collect in the palm of my hand before dropping them off in the basket. Jason chose to pick with both hands, without gloves.

We decided to have a competition to see who could pick the most, with points lost every time you yelled out in pain from a brier sticking you (which was often). We imagine that the game is one we can use to get our kids to pick blackberries with us (and one that we imagine will make them tough!).

Once we were done for the day we weighed our fruit (I won!) and we rinsed them outside with the hose.

blackberries

Then we brought them in to dry. We spread them out on a towel and turned on a fan.

blackberries

And once we decided they were dry enough, we filled up quart Ziplocs with them and labeled them.

bags of blackberries

Now we have at least 15 blackberry pies for the fall and winter. Yay!

.:.

 

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